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C At Home

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In the San Fernando Valley, artists Diane Wiedenmann and Frank Ockenfels 3 craft a new kind of family home—a gallery-like space that is at once rustic and edgy.

When Diane Wiedenmann and Frank Ockenfels 3 purchased a half-acre lot in Tarzana with unremarkable existing structures, they saw potential, but didn’t have a sense of what should be built.

As it turned out, the man with the answer was right next door. Ockenfels, an editorial, advertising and entertainment photographer, and Wiedenmann, an artist and avid gardener, lived in the property’s three-car garage (which they upgraded into an office, art studio and one-car garage), while conceptualizing the replacement of their circa-1950, 900-square-foot unusable bungalow with a proper house—a project they knew they were in for when they first bought the property. Around the same time, they became friendly with their neighbors, whose son, Dustin Slade, had recently graduated from architecture school in San Diego.

“We had talked with Dustin enough about ideas that we knew his aesthetic was similar to ours, and that he was not going to try to overpower us,” Wiedenmann says. The creative pair were seeking design concepts that suited their authentic, unfussy style, and needs as a family with two teenage sons. Another must? A band of clerestory windows in the main living space.

The couple’s resulting 2,000-square-foot, linear-plan home stands in contrast to its older, large-scale neighbors, yet complements its surroundings and site. The corrugated metal and rough-hewn wood-clad structure strikes a balance between the area’s rustic character—horses are a common sight, after all—and being edgy, as befits the artist couple’s creative output. Ockenfels’ moody, evocative portraits and Wiedenmann’s wooden totem sculptures are on display throughout, as well as work by friends, including Robert Longo.

Slade’s choice of materials illustrates his understanding of Wiedenmann and Ockenfels’ sensibility. Countertop surfaces are an elegant neutral sandstone, perfect for family meals around the open kitchen. He sourced perforated steel that filters out the harsh San Fernando Valley sun—like all of the elements, it’s not at all precious, and the surfaces age beautifully.

Select wood planks derive from the former cottage’s foundation—originally part of a nearby church that was disassembled after World War II. “It’s twice reclaimed,” Wiedenmann jokes. The couple chose vintage doors from a salvage yard in Pasadena, leaving worn finishes and other idiosyncrasies intact. Each had to be custom framed, since no two doors are alike.

“We’re always outside,” Ockenfels says, so indoor-outdoor flow is maximized. Wiedenmann added to an existing orchard near the front entrance, redesigned the area surrounding the pool and created a minimalist garden at the rear of the property. They describe the latter as “a sanctuary.”

There’s a prevailing work-in-progress vibe, paired with a visible sense of humor. Leftover steel pieces are repurposed as planters as well as a basketball hoop the contractor fashioned for the boys. A metal plate above the front door retains the numbers that Ockenfels spontaneously scrawled when an inspector required that the house address be visible. Says Wiedenmann, “Design on the fly.”

Photography by SAM FROST.
Written by JESSICA RITZ.

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